Wike:Minister or war-monger? By Zainab Suleiman Okino

Zainab Suleiman Okino_2The Minister of State for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike, was at his combative best at the weekend. In a futile attempt to defend his boss, job and interest, President Goodluck Jonathan’s sidekick also turned himself into his spokesman, defender and security detail. He openly declared a war, so to say, on the embattled state governor, Rotimi Amaechi. While the minister was making his inflammatory statements, his house (the education sector was
(and is still burning).

For over a month now, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) has been on strike, campuses of Nigerian universities are shut to students. Agreed that the ASUU crisis is a lingering one and predates the present administration, but of what use is a minister of education, if he abandons his primary responsibility of superintending over a crucial sector like education? Shouldn’t the minister, in conjunction with his direct boss, the minister of education, be preoccupied with finding a sustainable solution to education crisis?

Instead of being proactive in fixing these problems, the man is beating war drums elsewhere.

We all know that Wike is deeply involved in the Jonathan/Amaechi face-off. Sadly, he also does not have the decency to be diplomatic about it. That tells you the way the government is run. Everything is at the First family’s whims, and it’s either you do their biddings or you are against them. Wike as one of the loyalists of the First Family is ready to carry the family’s can of warms, hence his antagonism to any perceived enemy of the First Family.

At the weekend in Andoni local government of Rivers state, Wike murdered sleep by restating his earlier declaration that for standing up to his boss, the president, (over what rational Nigerians think is justified) Amaechi would no longer sleep with his two eyes closed. In an outburst, unbecoming of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Wike said:
“The message is clear; this is a mass movement, (I think he must have borrowed that phrase from his erstwhile mentor and boss, Amaechi, who is renowned for his pedigree as a Marxist and mass mobilizer) because we want a change in Rivers state”.

Okay that is fine. To wish for or want a change is not a bad idea in itself but the man went overboard with the following expression. “I cannot fold my arms and stay in Abuja and be doing ministerial work and somebody (Amaechi) is giving my boss conditions. I will not accept that…I will continue to say, if somebody comes to your house to say you will not sleep, will you allow him to sleep?…truly they are not sleeping. That is why they are

“Today you will hear a comment, tomorrow you will hear another comment. If they are sleeping, will they be making comments like that? They no longer have a siesta. That is WHAT WE PROMISED THEM, BECAUSE IF YOU DO NOT WANT PEOPLE TO HAVE THEIR SIESTA, YOU TOO WILL NOT HAVE YOUR SIESTA”, emphasis mine.

Besides the incentives on Amaechi, the minister veered into the politics of 2015 and underscored their continued quest to hang on to power. To him and his ilk, Jonathan should remain president beyond 2015 not because he has performed creditably well, but “we are supporting him because he is from Rivers state, he is married to our daughter, he is from the South-south” (and as an afterthought) “he is doing well as the president”.

Surprisingly, four days after this bad-mouthing and threats, the man has not been apprehended nor has Okupe or Abati dissociated the president from such divisive utterances. It is also instructive that Wike said he would not remain in Abuja to do ministerial work while his boss is being rubbished in Rivers. This is antithetical to the essences of his position,
because he was appointed by the president to serve as minister and not his advocate. And to think that this man (Wike) was nominated by Amaechi himself back then in 2011, despite the president’s initial protests. This is why I dislike politics. Where his interest is at stake, a politician can stab his brother. A politician is like chameleon, he changes his colour on
impulse. That was what Ameachi and Wike were – brothers- until the lust after power became a cardinal and dividing tool for the duo.

The renewed threat to peace in Rivers stateis a fall-out of the overheating of the political space there. If tomorrow the state becomes ungovernable, we know who to hold responsible. The federal government controls the security apparatus in the state. But before their very eyes, four foreign nationals were kidnapped recently. This is something that has not happened
in years in the state, at least since the Amaechi government cleaned up the waterfront.

2. Federal University, Otuoke: Matters arising

In 2011, shortly after the Federal University, Otuoke was established along five others to make up six from the six geo-political zones of the country. President Goodluck Jonathan led his cabinet and the business community to raise funds for the newly established ivory tower in his village. The appeal fund targeted N5 billion but on the spot, the school garnered a whooping sum of over N3 billion. Other donations that came later were not formally announced.

First, there is nothing wrong in raising money for the take-off of a university. What is wrong is the ethical question raised by many then. How could the president establish six universities and helped to raise funds for only one, people asked rhetorically? The simply answer is that Otuoke is the president’s birth place. The words out there is that it is absurd that the president situated the university in his place but he raised more concerns by making the other five universities ‘look like orphans’. Of course, Otuoke, and indeed, Bayelsa have since become huge construction sites.

This does not mean that Otuoke did not deserve it. Far from it. As a matter of fact every community deserves some form of federal presence and physical development. The only problem is the moral baggage of openly favouring your own community as against other rural parts of the country.

Again last week, the president threw caution to the wind when his mother, who was said to have donated some hostel accommodations to the same university, was equally on hand to declare it open. I can understand if mama is honoured and was asked to declare the hostel open. It is also understandable if the hostel is named after the aged mother of the president. But to say the woman built and donated it to the school is taking official corruption too far. How and when did the woman make such money to build a hostel for a university? Mr. President, someone needs to tell you that this is wrong and ignoble. Why not think of a better way to bestow honour on her?

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